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Our View: Treatment of Helios orphans by the government is sickening

Relatives of those killed in the Helios air disaster attending a memorial service

THE 2013 haircut of deposits meant that many of the 37 orphans of the Helios air disaster lost a big part of the insurance money they had received in compensation. The children received about €1 million each and the money was deposited in local banks. In the haircut of the Bank of Cyprus deposits and the collapse of Laiki some €8.8 million of this money was lost.

No exceptions could be made at the time, the government argued, because everyone would have a legitimate claim. The government, subsequently, decided to offer €3 million to cover part of the losses suffered by the orphans, which seemed a kind gesture. When compared, however, to the half a billion euro paid out by the taxpayer, to cover the losses of the bank employees’ pension fund, it is an insult.

It is sickening to think that the government could not spare an additional €5.8 million for the orphans but was happy to pay out €486 million, for the highest-paid private employees in Cyprus. When it came to bank employees the state was happy to make exceptions. Was this because the orphans did not have a powerful union to stage demonstrations and put pressure on the government, a few months before presidential elections?

The answer is an emphatic yes. There were only 37 orphans, many of whom did not even have the right to vote, whereas bank employees and their families represented thousands of votes. For President Anastasiades it would seem that the level of social sensitivity he shows rises in proportion to the number of votes that can be won. Tens of millions were given out before the elections on projects we did not need or on supporting different social groups, the criterion always being the votes that could be won.

This may sound cynical, but unfortunately, this is how politics works in Cyprus. It makes perfect sense to pay out half a billion euro to keep bank employees happy and their union on side, but paying one per cent of that amount to cover the losses suffered by the Helios orphans, was considered wasteful. This is because social justice and fairness are always measured in votes.

The more the beneficiaries of state spending the fairer it is considered by our vote-buying politicians, none of whom said a word about the shabby treatment of the Helios orphans by the government.

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